AAPI Heritage Month: Shows, Movies, Books & Businesses To Support

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Happy May, friends!

It’s been a while, hasn’t it? I feel like 2023 is on super-speed — like a sudden onset of delayed FOMO has happened, and all the pie slices of my life are furiously trying to make up for lost time and opportunities. (Just me? Always was a late bloomer.)

And because I am always, always my own worst enemy, I decided, “Oh! I know! On top of everything else going on, I should write something for TME this month.” Because, you know what? May is an important month to me, and I love you guys, and I have THINGS to share that cannot wait! (And, really, what’s a few more nights of sleep deprivation in the grand scheme of things?)

Celebrate Asian American & Pacific Islander Heritage Month: Watch, Listen, Read, Shop

Soooo…I’ve been participating in and organizing various celebrations of Asian American and Pacific Islander heritage during the month of May — literally since high school — and this year I finally learned why it happens in May! Isn’t that ridiculous? In case you’re like me and didn’t know, it’s because May is the month when the first Japanese immigrants arrived in the U.S. (in 1843) and also the month when the transcontinental railroad was completed (in 1869), due in large part to the labor of Chinese immigrants.

Clearly, I’m not here to give a history lesson.

Instead, I’m here to share something I feel at least moderately qualified in doing: recommendations for leisure time and escapism!

Last year, I jokingly challenged my kids to only watch and read things either written by people of API descent or featuring API main characters for the whole month of May. I really didn’t think it was possible, because historically, we’re not well represented in entertainment media. Spoiler alert! It was not much of a challenge.

I was pleasantly surprised by how many more options there are now, compared to when I grew up, where we had “The Joy Luck Club” and “All-American Girl,” and not much else for the next 25 years. (And you can bet I watched everything I could find — still have a soft spot in my heart for Harold & Kumar and am not ashamed to admit it.)  

So, if you’d like to play along, here are the shows, movies, books and businesses my family and I enjoy that meet the challenge criteria above. (I’ve grouped them by fives in keeping with the May theme.) My kids are currently 7 and 9.5 for reference. I’ve split up the media recommendations by age groups and included businesses that do online sales.

AAPI Heritage Month: The Best TV Shows, Movies & Documentaries To Watch (All Ages)

 

Shows & Shorts

Movies & Documentaries

Kids

Mira, Royal Detective (Disney+)

Abby Hatcher (Netflix)

The Little Prince(ss) (short) (Disney+)

Miraculous (Netflix)

Avatar: The Last Airbender (Netflix)

Lilo & Stitch (Disney+)

Wish Dragon (Netflix)

Abominable

Big Hero 6 (Disney+)

Raya and the Last Dragon (Disney+)

Teens

Ms. Marvel (Disney+)

Kim’s Convenience (Netflix)

Patriot Act (Netflix)

Never Have I Ever (Netflix)

Mythic Quest (Apple TV+)

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the 10 Rings (Disney+)

Hunt for the Wilderpeople

To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before Series (Netflix)

38 at the Garden (documentary) (HBO Max)

Blinded by the Light (HBO Max)

Adults

BEEF (Netflix)


Starstruck (HBO Max)

Pachinko (Apple TV+)

Bridgerton, Season 2 (Netflix)

Comedy Specials: Sheng Wang, Ronnie Cheng, Ali Wong, Hasan Minhaj so many!

The Farewell


Everything Everywhere All at Once

The Problem with Apu (documentary)

The Sound of Metal

Fire Island (Hulu)

5 AAPI Shows & Movies I Watch On Repeat + Highly Recommend

5 AAPI Shows & Movies I Can’t Wait To Watch 


AAPI Heritage Month: Spotify Playlist

And just for playing along with me, here’s a link to a Spotify playlist that I’ve now spent way too much time curating, filled with some awesome Asian American & Pacific Islander artists, from the mega-famous (why, hello there, Olivia and Bruno!) and soundtrack hits to some indie darlings and international faves. I think there’s something for everyone on here.

I spent too long curating this Spotify playlist for Asian American & Pacific Islander Heritage month, but here it is! From Jhene Aiko to Bruno Mars To BTS.

listen to the Spotify playlist


AAPI Heritage Month: The Best Books For All Ages (Early Reader to Adult)

Consider buying your books from Eastwind Books, a store I grew up with in Berkeley that was one of the first Asian American-owned bookstores in the country! They closed their brick-and-mortar store recently, but are still doing online sales.

Picture Books

“My Night in the Planetarium” by Innosanto Nagara: We couldn’t add this into the shopping widget below, but you can buy it on backorder at Eastwind Books of Berkeley or Amazon.


Early Readers/Chapter Books


Middle-Grade Books


Middle-Grade & Young Adult Graphic Novels


Teen/Young Adult Books


Adult Books

Next Books On My Reading List


AAPI Heritage Month: Where To Shop

This year, I’m going to up the ante as well as challenge myself to support at least five new-to-me AAPI-owned businesses and restaurants. For me, this is all a fun way to discover some gems that may not have the same marketing/publicity resources or would otherwise not be on my radar. And then I get to share my exciting finds with all of you! Yay!

 Umami Mart

What’s not to love about a well-curated selection of Japanese goods?

Umami Mart has a well-curated selection of Japanese goods. What's not to love?
Image: Umami Mart

explore Umami Mart


Our Place

My daughter and I fight over Our Place’s pretty and well-designed layered lunchbox, and I can’t wait to try some of the cookware pieces that the TME gang raves about!

AAPI-owned Our Place has some of the prettiest cookware. My daughter & I fight over the well-designed layered lunchbox.

explore Our Place | read TME’s Most-Recent Our Place Article


Eastern Classics

Last year, we bought a beautiful tansu from Eastern Classics Asian Furniture & Antiques to use as a dresser and LOVE IT.

Last year, we bought a beautiful tansu from Eastern Classics Asian Furniture & Antiques to use as a dresser + LOVE IT.
Image: Eastern Classics

explore Eastern Classics


Muji

OK, fine, Muji kind of sells everything, but it’s the home and office stuff I return to over and over again! 

Asian-owned retailer Muji kind of sells everything, but it’s the home & office stuff I return to over & over again! 
Image: Muji

explore Muji


Morningtide Shop

If you’re ever in the East Bay, definitely check out the cute Morningtide Shop with a super-thoughtful selection of goods. It hosts fun pop-ups too!

If you’re ever in the East Bay, definitely check out the cute Morningtide Shop w/ a super-thoughtful selection of goods.
Image: Morningtide Shop

explore Morningtide Shop


Yamazaki Home

Small-space dweller, rejoice! These Yamazaki furniture pieces are so clever and functional (& inspired by life in Japan).

Small-space dweller, rejoice! These Yamazaki furniture pieces are so clever & functional (& inspired by life in Japan).
Image: Yamazaki Blog

explore Yamazaki Home


Feed The Fish Co.

Feed the Fish Co. creates beautiful, cheerful hand-cut felt and other crafts and kits! Full disclosure: Erin’s a good friend of mine, and I love her to pieces.

Feed the Fish Co. creates beautiful, cheerful hand-cut felt & other crafts + kits!
Image: SJ Made

explore Feed the Fish Co.


Formosa Chocolates

The chocolates from Formosa are so pretty you almost don’t want to eat them. Almost.

The chocolates from Formosa are so pretty you almost don’t want to eat them. Almost.
Image: Formosa

explore Formosa Chocolates


Third Culture Bakery

Third Culture Bakery is a can’t-miss spot. Mmm…mochi muffins…the Original flavor is still my fave.

Third Culture Bakery is a can't-miss spot. Mmm…mochi muffins…the Original flavor is still my fave.
Image: Third Culture Bakery

explore Third Culture Bakery


Tea Drops

Tea Drops has so many fun teas and combos, without the tea-bag microplastics and waste or the messiness of loose-leaf tea. Yes, please!

Tea Drops has so many fun teas & combos, without the tea-bag microplastics & waste or the messiness of loose-leaf tea.
Image: Tea Drops

explore Tea Drops


Additional Thoughts & Notes

  • Streaming platforms are shown in parentheses wherever possible, but content on the different platforms seems to change a lot, so you may want to double-check.
  • For the non-adult categories, I’ve arranged them roughly in order of youngest to oldest, based on my best guess for enjoyment and age-appropriateness. Take a look at Common Sense Media for more description and age ratings!
  • Interested in parent/educator resources? Here are two amazing websites I keep returning to:
  • Did you guys know there’s a badge on the Target app and online for the AAPI-owned businesses? I had to scroll pretty far down to find it this year, but it was a nice way to discover new-to-me products. (I’m so, so tempted to make this a public Google sheet with filters, so that I can just go ahead and list all the things. Not even kidding, not even a little bit.)

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Obviously, I’m only scratching the surface with these different lists — it was so hard to narrow it all down, which is thrilling! Please tell me all your faves in the comments below!

And, of course, our enjoyment and recognition of Asian American & Pacific Islander heritage and stories need not, and should not, be confined to the month of May. I would love to one day reach a point where learning about and celebrating each other’s heritage happens year-round. Plus, Asia is a ginormous continent! One month cannot even begin to cover stories from all these amazing countries and cultures. But for now, I’ll do what I can with what I have. And to the entertainment execs out there, keep it up! Let’s all say it together, guys: Representation Matters!

All right, enough of my jibber-jabber, go get your bubble tea, sprinkle some furikake or garam masala on that bowl of popcorn, order in some dumplings, lumpia or pho (all of the above, please!), and go escape!

– Janice

It's Asian American & Pacific Islander Heritage Month! Celebrate w/ shows, movies, books & businesses I love owned by/written by/starring people of AAPI descent. Enjoy!
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Janice is a Taiwanese-American mom of two. She was born, raised, and is now raising her own kids in Berkeley, CA alongside her husband Mo, the most amazing life partner and co-parent anyone could ask for. She has been a long-time fan of TME, having first discovered ANMJ in those early post-partum days, filled with endless hours caring for a newborn and wondering what the heck to wear. She is beyond excited to be here, sharing about anything and everything. Want to learn more? You can also check out her Reader Q&A here.

17 COMMENTS

  1. LOVE this, Janice! Thank you! Our book club read Ruth Ozeki’s “A Tale For The Time Being” earlier this year and it was so intriguing and phenomenally unique. Loved it.

  2. I love this article, Janice! Next on my reading list is Stay True by Hua Hsu and The Memory Police by Yoko Ogawa. One of my favorite underrated books is Strange Beasts of China by Yan Ge. Thanks for sharing!!

  3. Wow! Thank you so much for this post Emily! I am white and my husband is Taiwanese-American and we have three teenage kids and I am always on the lookout for more ways to explore and celebrate our family’s identities. There are some wonderful resources on this list! Thank you for taking the time to share!

    • Hey Angie! Thank you so much for your comment. This one was actually written by Janice, one of our guest authors. You can keep an eye out for more of her posts down the road. Xo!

    • Thanks, Angie. If you haven’t checked out Sharon Chang’s work yet, I highly recommend her book, Raising Mixed Race which focuses on multi-racial Asian children. I think Sharon is also half-Taiwanese and is based in Seattle! https://sharonhchang.com/raising-mixed-race/
      I’d say our favorite way of staying connected to our Taiwanese heritage is visiting Taiwan! Maybe I can do a post about that someday…

    • OMG, so flattered! Thank you! I’ll think about what I can do re: a fashion-oriented post. Maybe something like workwear for people who don’t like workwear, lol. Or what I wore (and bought) in Taipei. Any suggestions?

  4. This is great- thank you! I see both old favorites and new-to-me stuff.

    We are big Ms. Marvel fans in this house!

    If I could, I’d add Turning Red (great movie for mid to older kids and adults- I loved it!) and anything written by Lisa See.

    • My husband and I loved Turning Red!!! Our kids got scared of when the mom became huge and scary, though they are now totally into boy bands from the 00’s, ha ha. I’m going to see if I can get them to try the movie again… Thanks for suggesting!

  5. I love everything about this post! I’m always looking for good shows to watch with my teenage kids, so can’t wait to check out the ones we haven’t seen yet. In the book category, Vera Wong’s Unsolicited Advice for Murderers has definitely been one of my favorite reads of the year thus far! Thank you for collecting and sharing these resources, and for curating my new favorite playlist to put on while washing dishes 🙂

    • Thanks, Alanna! I’m excited to read Vera Wong — another Jesse Sutanto book finally made it off my library holds list and I’m enjoying it so far! And I’m SO HAPPY that someone’s listening to that playlist! Had so much fun making it!

    • We love Kim’s Convenience! I stuck it in the list of shows okay for Teens. My husband actually refuses to watch the final few episodes because he doesn’t want it to be over, lol. 🙂 Thanks for commenting!

  6. Janice, this is such a fantastic list!

    May I add one more recommendation? My friend Dominic Lim has his debut novel coming out on June 6th: All the Right Notes, a queer Asian rom-com that’s both a beach read AND full of substance. It’s fantastic; I already read it twice and sobbed both times (but it’s happy, too!).

    From AAPI Heritage Month into Pride month — All the Right Notes is the perfect book to start your summer!

    • Thanks, Jessica! This is going onto my TBR list pronto! Would be so fun to do Pride Month and Summer Beach Read lists too…Good thinking!

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